15 Emotions there are no English words for (And how you could be using them…)

Speak (Image Credit: Alexis Nyal)
Speak (Image Credit: Alexis Nyal)

Ever sign onto Twitter ready to passive aggressively release the floodgate on your emotions… but can’t quite express them within that daunting limit of 140 characters?

One word might be enough. The catch?… It might not be in English.

PopSci recently covered the work of Pei-Ying Lin, a design student at London’s Royal College of Art who created a linguistics model based on her study of “untranslatable” words.

Lin first mapped out the five basic emotions in English and then identified foreign words that could express the ambiguous feelings that came in-between.

There is a plethora of words that don’t have English equivalents. We at The Daily Quirk have compiled a list of just a few of our favourites:

L’esprit de l’escalier (French)

“Translated as ‘staircase wit,’ it’s the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it.”

Example: With that burning statement, Kanye West left in a triumph. Taylor Swift, an hour later, thought of a million comebacks she could have screamed at Kanye if she could do it all over again. Darn! L’esprit de l’escalier!

Kummerspeck (German)

“The weight gained from emotional overeating; literally translates into grief bacon.”

To use post break-up, after watching 500 Days of Summer and eating 3 tubs of ice cream, 5 chocolate bars, a medium pizza with extra cheese, and a whole jar of Nutella. You can work off the kummerspeck later.

Meraki (Greek)

“Doing something with soul, creativity, or love.”

A great new mantra of life for motivation; carpe diem was getting old!

Gigil (Filipino)

“The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.”

Finally there is a word to describe how our old great-aunts must feel when they can’t help but pinch your cheeks and leave red welts—gigil.

Backpfeifengesicht (German)

“A face badly in need of a fist”

Whether your worst enemy or your little brother, this is also a word that satisfies any temper just by saying it- if you can pronounce it!

Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese)

“An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet, in the end, social conventions required you to express gratitude.”

That was a mouthful of a definition, but now when you’re forced to say thanks for something you’re not thankful for, you have the arigata-meiwaku as a word to tweet and express your anger under the radar.

Forelsket (Norwegian)

“The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love.”

The sighing and swooning and up on cloud nine kind of feeling you get when you think of that special someone- or peruse Nicholas Sparks’ novels.

Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan)

“The wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but neither one wants to make the first move.”

The scenario when he wants her and she wants him but tragically neither has any idea- and yet usually, everyone else knows except them. Just kiss already!

Shemomedjamo (Georgian)

“You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? This word in Georgian means ‘I accidentally ate the whole thing.’”

The word to use when you’re on a diet and you tell yourself that you’re just going to eat one Pringle- and then the next moment you’re staring at the bottom of the Pringle can. Oops! Shemomedjamo!

Iktsuarpok (Inuit)

“The feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep repeatedly checking outside to see if they’re there yet.”

It’s that feeling when you’re waiting for that special someone to drop by at a certain time- a family member, lover, friend, or maybe more frequently, the pizza deliveryman.

Tartle (Scottish)

“The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.”

Such a been-there-done-that-and-don’t-want-to-remember-it moment. I would be tweeting this word right away.

Koi No Yokan (Japanese)

“The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.”

Heart racing, swooning and butterflies. There was definitely koi no yokan when I first saw Ryan Gosling on screen.

Hikkomori (Japanese)

“Someone who has withdrawn from social life and never leaves his or her bedroom; they are often obsessed with TV and video-games.”

May apply to everyone born in the 90s: gone are the days when we made fun of the computer whiz in Kim Possible who stayed in a locker glued to a computer screen. But don’t worry mom, you can always make friends on the Internet.

Pilkunnussija (Finnish)

“A person who believes it is their destiny to stamp out all spelling and punctuation mistakes at the cost of popularity, self-esteem, and mental well-being.”

I found it hilarious that this is a real word in Finnish. Shout to all the real-life Hermione Grangers out there: the world needs you.

Gezelligheid (Dutch)

“Comfort and coziness of being at home with friends, with loved ones; general togetherness.”

This word makes me think of Christmas-time. Exchanging presents and drinking hot cocoa in front of a fireplace definitely defines gezelligheid.

Lin’s infographic clearly shows how we share the same emotions. As Dr. María Cuervo, Associate Professor in Linguistics at the University of Toronto, comments it seems “Language does not determine how people think.”

Unfortunately, even with over 3000 words available in our English vocabulary, there will always be a barrier between our emotions and the language we use to communicate them. Hopefully our list helps you out!

 


Image courtesy of Alexis Nyal
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Justine is an undergraduate student pursuing a dual degree in Biomedical Sciences and Ivey (AEO) Business under Western University’s National President’s Scholarship. Writing is one of her passions along with global health, history, travel, jazz-hop, and ketchup. She currently lives in Toronto with a loving family and her little black cat, Magic.

One thought on “15 Emotions there are no English words for (And how you could be using them…)

  1. This article is awesome. I fully intend to use all of these words. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of an ass-kicking comeback hours after the offense occurred. And I tartle all the time because I’m terrible with names. Grief bacon… a face badly in need of a fist… I’m in love with this list.

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